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A lament for quality at the expense of quantity – Russian propaganda

November 2, 2014

Today sees “elections” within the “People’s Republics” of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Needless to say, the recognition of these “elections is likely to occur only by Russia and a few other nations over which it has some influence.  A point not missed by Alexandr Zakharchenko, the current self-appointed “Prime Minister” of the “People’s Republic of Donetsk” (and likely “election” winner), who in a recent public statement rightly pointed out that 99.9%, no nations would recognise the vote or the “republics”.

According to RIANovosti, however, the OSCE elections observers have arrived to monitor the elections – something that if true, would indicate the possibility of recognition.

“DONETSK, November 1 (RIA Novosti) – Observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have inspected polling stations in the east Ukrainian city of Donetsk ahead of Sunday’s elections, a RIA Novosti correspondent in Donetsk reported Saturday.

According to the correspondent, a team of OSCE observers based in Donetsk visited a polling station in Donetsk School No 1. They checked polling booths and voter registration desks.”

Except, of course, OSCE aren’t there and won’t be giving any credence to any “elections”.

A fairly clear and very swift public rebuttal from OSCE to the NIA Novosti claims – and rightly so.

Instead, a hitherto unknown entity calling itself the ACSE (Association for Security and Cooperation in Europe) will be “monitoring” the “elections” – which leads to the point of this entry, which is not about the “elections” in the “People’s Republics” –  This entry is a lament.

It is a lament about the quality of Kremlin disinformation, misinformation, half-truths, alternative realities,  whataboutisms, logical fallacies,  plausible deniabilities and generally other very shoddy attempts to mislead through alternative framing and smoke and mirrors.

In short it is a lament about the quality of current Kremlin propaganda – be it white, black or grey.

Many years ago when Mr Putin sat on one side of the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain, and some readers were sat on the other side, Soviet propaganda, disinformation, misinformation, agitprop etc., that deliberately (or otherwise) made it across the divide was seemingly of a far better quality than much of the so easily torpedoed nonsense that it now tries to sell – not only in relation to Ukraine.

Some of the propaganda only 30 years ago was almost an art form.  It was clever, well thought out, subtly yet pointedly provocative – and problematic to disprove for various reasons.  That quality may not have always been the case for the internal propaganda within the USSR, but for the international community, or a specific external audience, the standard of propaganda was generally far smarter than the rubbish currently being pushed.

Now Joseph Stalin may well have said what has been attributed to him, in that “quantity has a quality all its own” – and that maybe true if attempting to drown the intellectually inert or mentally challenged in a torrent of perpetual third rate propaganda noise to the point of surrender or ambivalence  – but even in Stalin’s day, a little more thought was used than to have to hurriedly invent the “ASCE” a few hours before it was needed to “monitor elections”.  It would at the very least have had a legend of its own, created ahead of time that those outside the USSR would have been perplexed by, and  pondered over, for some time before its appearance on the stage.  A hurriedly cast bit part actor in the theatre of the absurd does more to undermine the play than to enhance it.

A quality “Less”, is perhaps better than a quantity “More”, when it comes to lasting impact.

With the “elections” offering The Kremlin the opportunity to either give the appearance of – or somewhat less likely, to actually – disengage and distance itself from the issues in eastern Ukraine, thus forcing Kyiv to engage with those they will not recognise because the vote occurred outside the parameters of Ukrainian election law, perhaps a move from “quantity” to “quality” propaganda awaits.

Alternatively the continued generally very poor but massive propaganda campaign will continue if The Kremlin decides to use the “legitimacy” the “elections” provide to any subsequent leadership, in either recognising or indeed annexing the “Republics”   There are still options as to how it can play out – and as always expect the worst of outcomes – though none would be recognised by the international community turning the de fecto into the de jure.

On reflection of course, whilst the quantity of Kremlin propaganda is impressive, that the quality of so much of it is so incredibly poor, is perhaps not the worst of outcomes in the circumstances.  If soft power in the media is about “noise”, then The Kremlin is doing rather well for its money – but if soft power in the media is about “lasting impact”, then perhaps it is time to question the value for money it is getting.

In sum, whilst the current Kremlin propaganda relating to Ukraine may well go down in history as one of the biggest and most expensive in Kremlin history, there is a point at which due to the sustained poor quality of the content, it became the most lampooned Kremlin propaganda effort in history too – an entirely counterproductive outcome for any propaganda campaign.

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One comment

  1. Yes, I have to admit, my old enemies the Commies were a class act compared to the knuckle dragging hipster Russian wannabes of today. Propaganda was well thought out and many covert operations were so under the radar that it took years to figure out what we missed. Today, Russia’s moves are telegraphed, but sadly the west doesn’t get to the telegraph office often enough to pick up the messages or even read them even if they are hand delivered. The West with their “rule by lackadaisical effort” is Putin’s best PR Department, and continues to make him look good even when he screws up or is caught lying.



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